Guest Author - Colleen Forgus
If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease such as hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, or Graves Disease, chances are high that you may also be suffering from gluten intolerance. At first glance, this may sound like one more complication to managing thyroid disease, but it is actually extremely helpful. When you understand the connection, knowing how to deal with gluten intolerance may be extremely beneficial in minimizing the symptoms associated with autoimmune thyroiditis.
Gluten intolerance and it’s close relative, celiac disease, are present when the body is incapable of digesting gluten, which is a protein found in any product made from wheat. In an effort to rid the body of gluten, it produces an antibody called gliadin, which is also responsible for attacking the thyroid gland in autoimmune disorders. Both gluten intolerance and celiac disease are treated by completely eliminating all wheat products from the diet. Gluten intolerance may be temporary, with the patient possibly being able to reintroduce wheat products into the diet after going gluten free for a period of at least six months. Celiac disease, however, is a lifelong condition where wheat products may not ever be consumed if the patient desires to maintain optimal health.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance and celiac disease include: abdominal pain, bloating, digestive problems, gas, fatigue, muscle and joint pain and difficulty losing weight. All of these symptoms are most likely familiar to patients who have suffered from thyroid disorders. However, it is important to note, that if a patient continues to experience these symptoms after being treated with thyroid medications, it could be a very strong indication that gluten intolerance could be an underlying condition.
Blood tests are available to test for gluten intolerance and celiac disease, however they are not always accurate – often producing a false negative result. Formal diagnosis of celiac disease requires a biopsy of the small intestine. Rather than taking that invasive step, it is suggested that patients try a gluten free diet. In many cases, symptoms will diminish after a week of eliminating gluten from the diet, however it could take up to a month to detox the body of the harmful effects of the gluten protein.
If you are like me, the thought of eliminating wheat from your diet could sound close to impossible. Bread, pasta, pizza, cookies, crackers, beer, and many other favorite products contain wheat. Wine and many alcohols are gluten free - the distilling process removes the gluten. Often the foods we desire the most are the foods that are the least beneficial for us. When I was first told I needed to eliminate wheat from my diet, my initial reaction was, “No way – what am I supposed to eat?” Then I thought, “Well, I’ll just allow myself a treat on the weekend.”
However, once I stopped eating wheat, I felt better fast. My bloated tummy flattened almost overnight. My digestive system started working more effectively. I even noticed that my hands thinned and didn’t look puffy. The added benefit of losing a couple of pounds was a welcome bonus. I realized that having the weekly treat wasn’t worth suffering all of the old symptoms after I worked so hard to avoid wheat during the week.
There are a plethora of products on the market that are gluten free. I have discovered delicious and healthy cereals, rice pastas and crackers. Corn tortillas have replaced bread when I want a sandwich and I’m starting to experiment with different types of gluten free flours to make my own baked goods at home. Once I started learning more about gluten free products, I realized there are plenty of products readily available and more are being offered everyday as more people are realizing how common gluten intolerance has become.
I strongly encourage you to try a gluten free diet if you are one of the many people who are taking thyroid medication and still suffering. Skipping the morning bagel is easy when you realize it could be causing you pain and damaging your body.
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